Five Poems by Aly Allen

Auditory Processing Disorder

I listen closely
so my response sounds
less like bullshit.

I never know what
I say, until after
someone else hears it

first. My speech mimics
whomever speaks most
in proximity to me. I look

like I’m thinking, mostly
I’m plotting a response
to conversations had.

I don’t know what
you said. Now I
didn’t hear you. I said

something of an echo.
I can sprinkle in and hypothesize
layers of ideas. Undo

the desire to be exclusive.
I don’t want to be
unique, I want to be like everyone.


Now I Study Metaphor

Spent three decades learning
what words meant
only to find
people say one thing
to mean another

still get confused
about whether I am
an expert on bugs
or origins and elision

Cicada molts crack
turn to powder under wind
they scream not from shedding

it’s the forgetting
how to fly

the best way to thresh


Color by Number

I always use the inverse
color on the color wheel,
in correlation to coordinated
numbers. The scheme is fine,
I’m sure. Your results
always the same. I’m trying
to remain sane. Following directions,
after all, is why we need to pause.


Same Food

Every day since a Monday
some twenty-three years ago
I’ve prepared and eaten
a bowl of oatmeal:
boiled on the stove,
cold from the fridge,
hot in the chow hall.
Always mix in peanut butter first.
Won’t eat more than a bite
if the banana slices are missing,
raisins seal the trinity, add
broken pecans and honey occasionally.
Milk makes it feel too rich.
Black coffee on the side.
I bought a full container of oats
and this morning
peeled them open.
I tilted the cannister, but before
I could pour, my taste buds
changed my mind. I’m not sure
what else to consider for breaking
fast. I stuff the oatmeal silo behind
the bread, position pasta boxes
to make my routine incorporeal.
I make stir-fry, with chicken and veggies,
which heat while the teriyaki congeals
in the pan. Bitter sips between bites.


It Wasn’t a Date But…

I have issues
with object permanence,
so, I wrote your name
on my wall. I read it
aloud whenever I remember.
The wall reminds me
of your steady gaze.
The giddiness to get
to know you as more than
a smattering of patterns. I could see
how it might be awkward
when you come over,
it’s not a shrine, though,
don’t worry,
it’s more a spell.


Aly Allen is a trans poet. Her writing focuses on family, trauma, and identity. Her first full-length collection, Paying for Gas with Quarters, debuts this October from Middle West Press. Recent publications appear in Two Hawks Quarterly, new words (press), and Press Pause. She holds an MFA creative writing from Oklahoma State University, where she now teaches composition. Find her on Instagram and Threads @notasquirrel